Edinburgh Yarn Festival plans 1: vendors

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My little EYF haul from last year. The Blend No. 1 and the Buachaille were birthday gifts.

Despite being an Edinburgh native, and despite my mother telling me repeatedly how good it is, I only made it to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival for the first time last year. It was good, oh yes, but it was also pretty overwhelming. I wasn’t prepared for how large the marketplace was, and how hot and busy the Corn Exchange would be, and I spent most of the festival wandering about feeling rather shell-shocked, texting Lucy at intervals: “OMG I am literally a yard away from Kate Davies in the flesh! Unreasonably excited!!!”

Although seeing a lot of fibre celebrities in real life was pretty cool, I don’t feel I made the most of the day, and so this year I am making some plans before I go.

First up: what vendors do I especially want to visit? Like a lot of fibre fans, it seems, I’m getting really interested in the provenance of yarns, and their environmental credentials, so I’m particularly keen to check out British-raised/rare breed/small batch/naturally dyed/minimally-processed yarns at the festival. Vendors who fit this description include (in no particular order):

Home Farm Wensleydales – yarn from the farm’s own flock of Wensleydales (and some Blue-Faced Leicesters). Wensleydales are brilliantly eccentric-looking sheep.

Garthenor – undyed organic yarn from British sheep breeds. How gorgeous is their website?!

Cambrian Wool – a community interest company set up to develop products with Welsh wool.

Uradale Farm – organic wool from Shetland

The Border Tart – a Scottish indie dyer specialising in indigo.

Polo & Co – rustic French yarns in natural shades or plant-dyed.

Shetland Handspun – natural and dyed yarns spun by hand in Shetland.

Ardalanish Weaving Mill – yarns and accessories from a farm on the Isle of Mull that uses fleeces from its own and other local sheep.

Daughter of a Shepherd – undyed yarn from the proprietor’s father’s flock of Hebridean sheep.

Woollenflower – plant dyed yarns, and accessories made from reclaimed tweed.

Uist Wool – a cooperative company spinning undyed yarns from local sheep in the Outer Hebrides.

Black Bat – British rare breed wools.

The Border Mill – undyed and naturally dyed alpaca from a lovely small operation in the Scottish Borders. Apparently they have a new 4-ply alpaca-silk tweed range – sounds nice!

Iona Wool – yarn spun from sheep on the island of Iona.

The Little Grey Sheep – Gotland yarn from Hampshire dyed by hand on the farm.

Whistlebare – yarn from Northumberland, dyed on the farm it’s raised on.

Bigger British companies that also produce this kind of yarn include:

Kettle Yarn Co – ethically sourced, hardwearing yarns, some of which are naturally dyed.

John Arbon Textiles [https://www.jarbon.com/yarns-wools] – a Devon mill that produces lots of interesting yarns, including local and single-breed yarns.

Laxtons [http://www.laxtons.com/shop/undyed-yarns-for-hand-dying] – undyed yarns in large quantities.

Blacker Yarns [https://www.blackeryarns.co.uk/knitting-wool-yarns] – spinners of all sorts of British wool, including lots of single-breed yarns.

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Skeins of Border Mill naturally dyed alpaca aran that I got last year after seeing them at EYF.

Whew, that’s a long list! (Well done, EYF organisers, for bringing in so many interesting small producers.) Are you wondering whether I intend to buy from all of them? Of course I don’t; I couldn’t possibly afford to. I want to keep my yarn acquisitions very small and purposeful this year, so I may not come away with much yarn at all. But visiting these sellers, feeling their yarn and learning more about the sheep and people who produce it will be a) pleasurable in itself, b) a good way to learn more about different yarns and their properties, and c) a way of building up a reference index of yarns I like so that next time I need a whole sweater’s worth of wool, I know where to go for it.

This is not a comprehensive list, so if you know of other vendors like this who are coming to EYF, please leave a comment! What vendors are you excited about seeing at the Festival?

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Self-control 2: eating my words

IMAG5185_1Anyone who follows me on Instagram might have seen a certain denim dress pictured on there several times recently. A suspiciously Warehouse-like denim dress, a denim dress that very closely resembles the despised high street dress I sort-of congratulated myself on not buying in my last post.

Yep, it’s the same one. In my defence, I did not buy it myself; my boyfriend bought it for my birthday and it was entirely his choice; I even had a go at dissuading him, since I couldn’t in conscience encourage him to do something I had decided it was unethical for me to do myself. But oh, I’m so glad that he did!

I love wearing it so much I’ve become addicted: it’s practically a uniform. I wore it eight times before putting it through the wash, and as soon as it was dry I put it on again and wore it four days in a row. Every time I have worn it just as pictured below: with very old, battered-but-sturdy tan boots, a chunky grey wool cardigan I knitted myself, and the dog-tag porcelain necklace I “liberated” from my mother’s jewellery collection. (Not the tan handbag, unfortunately – that was also a maternal loan, but its return was strictly enforced!)

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Again, I’m not quite sure what the point of this post is, apart from to ‘fess up. Perhaps to say that this garment, this rather plain blue dress which has aroused such a curiously strong passion, has been teaching me about my relationship with clothes in more ways than I expected. It feels like a style departure to wear something this old-fashioned and to wear it like a uniform, and yet it also feels like coming home; there’s a naturalness and a simplicity to getting up every day and putting on the same outfit that I had not at all expected to love as much as I do (I never liked my school uniform much!)

In fact, it feels like my expectations of clothing are shifting just as a result of this one dress: having seen that it is possible for one garment to be so comfortable, so stylish, so effortless to wear, so durable (I hope), so simple yet un-boring even when endlessly repeated, I hope I will be looking for the same qualities in any future RTW purchases, and from garments I make myself too. Perhaps I will even go as far as this woman and wear the same outfit every single working day? I doubt it, but I feel I understand the impulse now in a way I didn’t when I first read that article.

What about you, readers? Do any of you wear uniforms (voluntarily or not)? How do you feel about variety vs predictability in dressing?

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❤ H + denim dress 4eva ❤

Self-control

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Denim midi dress, £55 from warehouse.co.uk

So, yesterday, I walked past the Cambridge city centre branch of the high street women’s clothes shop Warehouse, and this dress was on a mannequin in the window. I don’t mind telling you, my reaction was a bit like this pug‘s (linked because you’d never get the rest of the way through the post if I put that GIF in it).  Instant enchantment, in other words.

Whoa – I haven’t had that reaction to a piece of high street clothing in a long time. Then today, I did something I haven’t done in even longer: I went into Warehouse. It was strangely bright and cramped in there, and there were lots of things made of polyester, but I found the dress and tried it on, and wow! it felt great and looked (I thought!) pretty great and I thought about buying it, I really did. I got some compensation money from my gas company this month for some historic billing f**k-ups, and it would have more than covered it. I was so tempted.

Then I thought: no, I could make this (simple bodice, elasticated waist, A-line skirt) and anyway, it didn’t have pockets, which seemed like a really stupid omission. A dress like that is begging for you to put your hands in deep pockets and slouch a little! In fact, I think the model below is trying to do it and that’s why her hands are hanging in that weird way…sorry, I digress.

warehouse denim dress

I came back and looked at my patterns, and chose two I could mash up (McCall’s 5927 for the bodice and sleeves, Sewaholic Saltspring for the waistband and skirt – with pockets because Tasia of Sewaholic is a sensible woman). I even started browsing for organic denim I could buy, since I don’t have a big enough piece in my stash; I reckon it would need at least 3.5m of wide fabric for a tea-length A-line dress with long sleeves. But in the course of that browsing I re-read So Zo’s musings on organic cotton and decided that it would be unethical to buy new fabric, organic or not, so I will just have to wait till I find something suitable second-hand.

In case you’re wondering what the point of this post is, sorry – and thanks for reading so far – but I don’t really know. It just felt significant that all I’ve read and thought about ethical textiles and conscious consumption and the global garment industry is now actually strong enough to overpower even the sudden mad rush of falling in love with a garment, a rush which took me over the threshold of one of the despised high street shops I usually avoid like the plague, and to the point of contemplating giving them money. I guess maybe I want to say that being part of an online community of thoughtful, caring, responsible makers (like Zoe and Felicia and Karen) can actually make a difference to behaviour, that actually we can encourage and support each other to consider the interests of exploited garment workers and the environment above our own selfish desire for clothing gratification.* Consciousness-raising FTW!

*obviously I don’t know who actually makes clothing for Warehouse and what their working conditions are – but since I don’t know that they aren’t exploited, I have to assume that they might be.